Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Long Over Due!

Baby-sisting my little nephew Charlie! He love's hanging upside down! Check out that smile! Photo by Ashlie Ferguson
As life flies by I wonder how each of use gets caught up in our complexities of adventure? Whether it is a life of climbing, being a weekend warrior, raising a family or a combo they are all valuable and for some reason I have a hard time figuring it all out. What's really cool is most of use have these challenges, so there are often people that are willing to talk, share and help you out in ways you haven't thought about. These are things I love about my life as I adventure around. So this post is for those people who I hold close, shared a rope with and have helped me work through some of my other challenges over the past while. So thanks in advance and enjoy the read about my adventures over the past few months.

Where do I start? When I got back to New Brunswick in December the ice east coast scene was battling a warm winter. Regardless we still got out for some new routing in Cape D'Or NS.

Luc Gallant and I climbing Early Bird gets the Worm WI4 55m and Lucas Toron and I climbed Battling the Winds of Warm Winter WI4+ 100m. Also there was a seige of new routing that happened in the Walton Glen area that was headed up by Greg Hughes, koodoo's to Greg and company for putting up some proud lines!

Also koodoo's to Luc and Marty for getting on the Pomme D'Or in Quebec this season! Stoked for you guys!

Battling the Winds of Warm Winter
Luc approaching Early Bird Gets the Worm

Luc on the Early Bird
An unclimbed 90m WI6. Though it was warm this one was so close to being ready!

I also got to go ski touring with Ashlie in the Chic Choc National Park in Quebec which was fantastic. We spent a week up there skiing around. We skied around Mt Albert, Hogs Back and spent 3 days touring and ripping turns around Mont Logan! Thanks Nicholas Letourneau for hosting us and all the beta!
Ash crushing the up on the way to the summit of Mont Logan!

Enjoying a wicked sunset!

So Cute :)


With the tempermental ice season underway I decided to look into an American SW climbing road trip. I hadn't put much energy into pure rock climbing over the past 2 years and thought it would get me excited to push my rock climbing again!

So as of February 26th I jumped in Estie (Ash Ferguson's 79 Westfalia) and started the trip.

First stop was Amqui, Quebec for some skiing, awesome food and even better people! Thanks folks :)

From Amqui Ashlie and I drove as team VW Golf and Westfalia to Montreal where we stopped to visit more wonderful friends, put a new starter in the van and catch a Wintersleep concert! So awesome by the way. Ash and I continued the VW drive through Toronto where we diverged, I continued west into the USA and she started north then west visiting friends in Barrie, TBay, Regina, Cranbrook and finally home in Coquitlam BC.

My drive through the mid-west was great because Estie doesn't have a heater and the temps went from -20C in eastern Canada to +20C through Nebraska and all the way to Indian Creek.
Estie psyched to be in the desert!
I found my friend Noel Cockney at the Creek Pasture campground and we got in a few days of excellent crack climbing before I had to make my way to Red Rock to meet up with more folks and desert climbing.

Thought the head lights in Estie stopped working I was still able to get to Vegas and pick up my Austrailian friend Ngaire at the airport only 12 hrs last. Fortunately I was able to let her know so she wasn't wondering what in the world had happened to me. That same day I got Estie an appointment at the Westfalia doctor and fortunately she was all fixed up :)

Ngaire is a newer climber and we had fun pushing each other through different barriers both through climbing and recent life events. Not to long after I meet up with Ngaire more good people arrived in Red Rock. New Brunswick climbers Lucas, Kristy and company arrived in Vegas and through them we also meet Taylor and Katelyn who we camped, drank beers and climbed desert stone with. Not long after meeting up with those fine folks Ben Fox also joined the mix and our climbing adventures really got underway!

Ben, Ngaire and I climbed a number of routes together, here's a list: Stairway to the Stars 5.9 (with Ngaire) , Our Father 5.10d, Triassic Sands 5.10d, Amber 5.10c, Women of Mountain Dreams 5.11a (with Ben) and Guys from Josh 5.10c. I also was fortunate enough to connect with a former NOLS student who was on his March Break. Nate Mancovich and I climbed Space Cowboys 5.10b and the first 4 pitches of Adventure Punks unfortunately we didn't have a #6 cam which you basically need to bump up the whole 50m 5th pitch.

Ngaire on the beautiful hand crack on Stairway to the Stairs!
Taylor on pitch 3 of The Warrior.

Nate on pitch 4 of Adventure Punks.

After a number of great days climbing with these folks Taylor, Katelyn and I headed up to the Cactus Flower Tower to have a battle with The Warrior 5.11a. It is a physical route with sustained 5.10/10+ chimney climbing. Once at the base Katelyn opted to hangout and chill while Taylor and I went for it. After some groveling chimney climbing for 50m Taylor topped out the first pitch. I them took over and climbed the next 2 pitches a fun stemming corner with good crack and chimney climbing higher up to a belay and then the money pitch! A 40m flaring chimney with a nice hand/fist crack for protection. At the top of this pitch Taylor wasn't feeling it, so we decided to head down. Even though climbing isn't necessarily a team sport you do have to take into account your partner and there needs. Thanks for getting up there with me Taylor and giving it a go! The retreat just meant I had to go back again :)

I love Red Rock for the variety of climbing and one route on my list was Women of Mountain Dreams a 15 pitch 5.11a that goes up the middle of the Aeolian Wall on Mt. Wilson. So I mentioned in a group conversation around the fire that I wanted to go on a adventure up there and Ben Fox was excited to join me. So we got organized and made it happen! The day started in the dark with mate and a quick bit to eat. We were soon at the trail head with the sun rising behind us lighting up Mt.Wilson. We quickly made our way to the base and to our surprise another party was ahead of us. We had good conversation throughout the day as we moved and shared belays and the hike down. The climbing was varied and mostly sustained at 5.9 with a few 5.10 pitches and the crux 5.11a pitch... and then a wild airy 5.10 move just below the summit with hundreds of metres of air below put icing on the cake! The whole day was about 14 hrs of hiking and climbing which was one of my favourite climbing days in a long time!

Ben on the crux pitch of Women of Mountain Dreams.

A huge part of this SW road trip was to meet up with a large group for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) instructors for a week of climbing, rope rescue skills development and growth regardless of what level a climber you were. So on March 20th I picked up Greg Hughes, Kim Herrick and Ashlie Ferguson at the Vegas airport and we meet up with 35+ fellow NOLS instructors and speckled ourselves all over Red Rocks for the next week!

Ngaire, Ben and I still hung out in the campground together but our climbing partners started to change.
-I roped up with Kim Herrick, Ashlie Ferguson, Noel Cockney and Greg Hughes for a day of sport climbing in the Calico Hills.
-Noel and Greg for a burn on Bighorn Buttress an excellent and highly recommended 4 pitch 5.11a in Willow Springs.
-Noel, Ashlie, Kim and I had a fantastic big day out on Kalieodoscope Cracks 5.8 10 pitches in Oak Creek Canyon. 
-Ashlie and I had a super fun day on Hot Flash 5.8 8 pitches in First Creek Canyon.

Ash pulling the roof on Hot Flash!
Ash cruising Hot Flash.

And then Noel and I headed up to finish The Warrior! I have to say this is one of the best routes I have climbed! It is just so fun, a bit burly and run-out but ultimately safe. The combo of these few things encompass why I love climbing so much!
Noel in the heart of The Warrior.
Noel cruising the flaring chimney!

Pitch 4 more chimney climbing!
Noel styling pitch 5 tips to slightly run-out face!

So I left Red Rock yesterday with a new sense of place. I feel rejuvenated and stoked for the next adventure. I have started to heal some strains I have created and am excited to continue pursing those challenges. So thanks to all the people that I roped up with over this past month of climbing! I look forward to climbing with you all again soon! And thanks to the climbing/transient lifestyle I have chosen, you have done wonders on my psyche as I let go of the old and enter the new!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Exploring the Greater Ranges

It has been 2 months since James and I walked out of the Khane Valley in Pakistan's Karakorum Range so it's about time I fill you folks in.

Before getting into the story and events of the expedition, I’d like to mention that this trip was inspired by the death of our good friend and climbing partner Cory Hall who was killed in a climbing accident in Peru. In honor of Cory’s contagious sense of adventure, we decided to team up and put together, in the best style possible a Cory Hall worthy adventure! This involved buying Royal Enfield motorcycles in Delhi, riding them to the India/Pakistan border, traveling by bus to the Karakorum, climbing in the mountains, traveling back to India to collect our bikes again and work our way toward the Indian Garwhal for more climbing and biking before heading home.

Here is the story.

On September 13th, 2015 James Monypenny and I (Max Fisher) crossed the Wagha Border from India into Pakistan and for the next month traveled north into the Karakorum by motorbike, bus, jeep and foot to explore and climb in the Khane Valley.
Below is an account of our experience traveling and climbing in Pakistan.
I was excited to get out of India but unsure of how I would feel in Pakistan. It wasn’t long before I felt really comfortable. In Muslim culture a guest is considered a gift from god, so as a foreigner you a treated very well. People often buy you food and help you hassle free. This hospitality followed us throughout the country.
The Khane Valley is located approximately 1.5 hours up the Hushe River Valley by jeep. Once there you will find exceptional hospitality and porters to help carry your food and gear up to base camp. You can even get a camp chief if you want!
Speaking with the local’s we learnt that we were the 8th expedition to climb in the Khane Valley. There is so much in this area that remains unclimbed.
We moved up the valley and established our base camp at 3800m. This location has been used by previous expeditions and is known as Boulder Camp and has
After we got settled in we went out exploring for potential objectives as well our main objective “Tangra Tower.” Walking up the goat trail to the glacier I was think, “wow, this is so similar to Patagonia but we are already higher then Fitz!” Laughing I mentioned this to James since he and I climbed Fitz together a few years ago. We saw numerous objectives for alpine climbing during our exploration and approaching Tangra saw a several lines that could go up the 900m south face.
That night we were both excited to move higher into the valley and get an advanced base camp set up so we could get out climbing. However, there was a different plan ahead that we had little control over. The next day James started feeling sick. Eggy burps = Gardia. So, instead of moving up, James managed the sickness and I tried to stay busy bouldering and cooking good food. Then it snowed for 3 days and I was left to read, cook, drink mate and try not to go to stir crazy while waiting for the snow and gardia to go away. With antibiotics James recovered in a few days but the snow persisted. Regardless we organized food and gear and set up our advanced camp at around 4200m at the base of the Khane Glacier. Two days later we set out for our first objective, Twin Peak II.
Twin Peak II cannot be seen from down in the valley as Meligo blocks the view. During our exploring adventure early on it came into view and I wanted to climb it. The north face was covered in ice and snow and approximately 1000m long. We set up a bivy camp and planned to start moving by 4am. We started out slogging through the knee-deep snow up 200m to the base of some friendly yet steep seracs. 
We then climbed 3 long pitches of brittle 85 degree glacial ice to a small glacial plateau. We again slogged to an ice and snow ramp that lead us up to the upper headwall. Climbing on precarious snow cover rock and thin ice for a few hundred meters brought us to a beautiful 300m, 75 degree section of neve that we simultaneously climbed. At the top of the neve was another steep section and then more precarious snow. Reaching 5000m for the first time, I was feeling the effects! As we climbed the next few hundred meters the sun started to set and our pace, mine especially, decreased. Around 200m from the summit we decided to retreat, rappelling for several hours before staggering back to our bivy and falling asleep.
The next day was the first sun we had seen in 5 days. We slowly made our way back to our base-camp to eat and rest before heading back into the hills for an alpine capsule style attempt on Tangra Tower’s 900m south face. With our gear in place we just needed the window!
 After a nice day and a half of rest we headed up to Tangra. We made our way to the base of the wall and got established just as the sun was setting. Being late September/early October the nights were quite cold and we decided to wait for the sun to climb. This slowed us down for sure as we climbed for around 6hrs each day. 

We also under-estimated how much fuel we would need and this ultimately forced us to turn back before reaching the summit. After using the last of our fuel and getting worked on the squeeze chimney after 12 pitches of C2 5.10+ we opted to go down and return to Khane Village for warm food and incredible Balti hospitality!
Huge Thanks to MEC, LOWA Footwear, Mountain Equipment, Gore-Tex, V12 Outdoor, The Mount Everest Foundation and the British Mountaineering Council for their support! 
Photo's by James Montpenny and Max Fisher
After traveling back to India I headed to meet up with Ashlie while James went para-gliding in Bir India. Ash and I headed into the Indian Garwhal for a 14 day motorcycle/mountaineering adventure. We started in Ranikhet at the NOLS India branch where we were meet with wonderful hospitality and a relaxed environment!

Once we had our food and gear all sorted we said good bye and headed north to Badrinath, a holy Hindi town and walked into the hills there for 9 days. Here are some of our photos.

Photo's by Ashlie Ferguson and Max Fisher